Sunday, May 18, 2014

To Rochefort! Beertrip Day 8

Day 8 of our trip was a travel day, so we were fed, packed and on the motor coach  at 10 AM.  Our first stop was the town of Rochefort, home of the illustrious Trappist monastery and brewery.  We jumped off the bus and headed into a somewhat upscale French style café called La Gourmandise for an early lunch.  No one in the restaurant spoke much English so we had a bit of a time figuring out the menus.  Sj and I ended up sharing a Trio of Duck, with preparations of duck confit, foie gras and carpaccio.  That dish was very small but intensely flavorful.  We also shared a charcuterie plate of local hams, pate made with Rochefort 8, questionable meat jello, and some greens.  This was actually one of my favorite meals on the trip.  I'm a sucker for cured meats and duck!

Meat and Beer, a match made in Heaven!

We paired this wonderfully meaty repast with Rochefort 6, 8, and 10.  For those who haven't tried these beers, you should go buy one of each and drink them in that order.  The 6 is a lighter dry brown ale that is very refreshing and goes well with many foods.  The 8 is a bit stronger and corresponds to the dry end of a Belgian Dubbel.  The 10 is a complex quadruple with tons of dark fruit, candy sugar and maltiness.  I have had 10's aged 8-10 years and they only get better with time.  There is certainly something to drinking a Trappist ale knowing you are only a mile from the place it is monks!  I tried to ask our waitress where I could find a Rochefort beer sign in town and she indicated a place  few blocks down the street.  Later, when I went upstairs to visit the bathroom, I discovered a little shop upstairs that was selling signs, glasses and bottles of beer hiding up there!  So I bought a sign for my basement bar to go with the Chimay and Orval signs I already have.

We had a few minutes to wander the cute little town before we met up with our motor coach again.  Just a short jaunt and we were at the Rochefort Abbey.  This particular day it was the Monday after Easter, a big holiday in Belgium, and the place was virtually abandoned.  We took advantage of the silent and nearly empty grounds to peek around and sneak some pictures.  We were able to briefly infiltrate the church and look around as well but didn't want to bother any of the monks so took off fairly quickly.  This was a truly  beautiful and relaxing place.

Brewhouse at Rochefort?

Next we traveled to over rolling hills and into forested areas to Chiny, a tiny pastoral resort town in the Ardennes.  Our hotel Comtes De Chiny, was an old resort hotel nestled right on the bank of the sparkling Semios river.  We checked in and happily found our rooms to be fairly recently updated.  We all split up to unpack and explore the environs.  There wasn't much going on in the town, but there were several paths along the river and into the forest which Sj and I ended up hiking.  At one point along the river trail I was able to spot a very large trout jumping entirely out of the water!  I was hoping the trout would have a ring in its mouth like in the legend of Orval, but no such luck.  I camped out with my camera, waiting for a repeat performance but to no avail.  There was also a photogenic hotel cat that was quite excited to follow around hotel guests.

Our hotel on the river!

Our dinner was at the hotel restaurant that evening.  I am always a bit hesitant about hotel restaurants, and the kitchen for this place looked pretty small, but the meal was remarkable!  They paired full bottles of beer with the courses and we were all quickly full and happy.  The first course was a salad with shaved local ham, perfectly roasted squab, shaved carrot and shaved asparagus.  This was paired with a Hotteuse Grand Cru, a dry and mellow tripel that paired very well with the complex flavors in the salad.  The second course was a roasted and sliced duck breast that rivaled any I have ever had in my life.  A Rochefort 8 was flavorful enough to stand up to the duck and dry enough to clear the palate after the rich meat.  Next they served up a gargantuan cheese board of various local delicacies that my lactose intolerant body was unable to fully partake in.  The bretty aged 2011 Orval (back to the trout!) was wonderful with these tiny tastes of cheeses and I would recommend it for pairing with most cheese.  Desert was a rich but thankfully small dome of chocolate mouse paired with the slightly too sweet Duchess de Borgogne.  For a finisher the staff brought us their last bottle of La Safranaise to share.  This was an incredible artisanal Belgian ale brewed with saffron flowers and had a subtle yellow color and saffron flavor without being a gimmick beer.

So good!

So after such an outstanding meal and great beers we were all half asleep and very full!  We didn't have far to go, but those stairs are steep!

Bonus Hotel Cat picture!

Next Up:  Rulles, Bastogne, Val Dieu, Maastricht!

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